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Part 1a: The Bible: Inspired Literal Word of God

I grew up believing the Bible was the inerrant word of God. Every dot and tiddle was meant to be there. And if we were close enough to God, he would tell us what it meant. (though, i found the various verses warning us against adding/subtracting from the bible to be odd - since they were scattered throughout the middle and were a warning against text that came afterwords...)

 The bible required some knowledge of the original Greek and Hebrew, and also required a personal relationship. Since lacking a personal relationship, we were likely to misinterpret what it said.

 On the other hand, I heard stories from men who came to chapel about how they were saved because of a little Gideon’s bible in their hotel room.

 The first time the Bible came into question was in college. I was taking a class on Hebrew religion that I felt was very fair to both sides. We had to read books by both Christian and non-Christian, jewish and non-jewish scholars. One of the books bothered me a lot. It was called “Who wrote the Bible” and it tore into my concept of the authors of the torah and prophets. I remember talking with my dad about it, hoping he would explain. What he told me was along the lines that this sort of thing was a ploy by the devil. In the end, it didn’t matter what the scholars said, what mattered was our faith in God.

 Faith was one of my virtues, so with some effort, I set aside the contrary thoughts, and time stole the concerns away.

 Tithing was another area of concern with me. Having been raised as I had been, tithing was an accepted practice. You tithed because God said so. He didn’t need my money, but wanted to teach me generosity and to trust in his provision and because it was a symbol that he was first in my life.

 Then my church gave the Give-to-Get sermon, based out of the last chapter in Malachi. I started struggling since I certainly had no special bonus for all the amount of tithing and extra giving I had been giving (at that point, 30% of my student’s wages were going to the church, and when I could manage it, an extra 20% went to charities – all of this before taxes and my needs.) I think I even tithed off my student loans one semester (facepalm). They brought up quite a few people who talked about the blessings God poured into their lives because they gave and the “test me in this”. I found myself growing resentful, and then I hated myself even more, because I was being like the prodigal son’s brother.

 I stopped tithing and my finances seemed to fall apart. It was almost as if the opposite ‘test me in this’ was true. That God’s blessing on me, was keeping me in a low, but somewhat stable financial condition - until I stopped giving. After I worked through my issues and was able to return to my give because god says so, not because I want something out of it, I started tithing again.

 But the seeds were planted.

 I continued believing that every word was true and right, even the contradictory ones. That the contradictions were just misunderstanding of the humans reading it. It wasn’t until much later after other pillars of my faith started shaking that this one started getting hit.

 A lot of my belief in the veracity of the bible is founded on two principles. 1. Authority, which will be addressed in another section. And 2. a circular argument:

 How do we know the Bible is God’s word to us? Because He told us so. Where? In the Bible. It is it’s own proof.

 Oddly, I never experienced the disjointed reactions many people seem to get when they read the bible for the first time as an adult. My mind easily filled in the blanks, rationalized and compartmentalized. I will admit study of the bible was more difficult for me, because I liked the stories the best and I was not terribly detail oriented. Even now, I work best in broad concepts that I can apply to my life. Besides, as long as I got what God wanted me to know, i didn't figure the dots and tittles were vital.

 My concerns started to grow as my reliance on authority waned and my realization that the Bible was its only proof. It was written too far from the actual events it wanted to record. It was written by many authors, contrary to tradition. And we really didn’t know who they were, and once again, all we had was a belief that it was holy, and a tradition that so-in-so wrote it. plus the time-frame was wrong for humans. we have evidence of humanity doing things 10,000 years ago. and why wasn't archaeology providing evidence for the events it described?

 Which meant those mistakes that had been pointed out were harder to wash away. The multiple writers with different political agendas were harder to mesh into "divine inspiration from God." And the old testament started looking more like the writings of an ancient land-hungry culture than a jealous and just old testament side of God. The anti-female passages started seeming just like they were… restrictions on women, not the “freedoms” of the time… And why didn’t God abolish slavery? He could have, but instead, he encourages it.

 Had this been the only pillar shaking, I could have slipped into a more liberal Christianity. Turned the bible into an allegory, became more reliant on the Holy Spirit or some such.

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My mind easily filled in the blanks, rationalized and compartmentalized.

One of my friends, who is an author of fantasy books for children, once commented on the differences between writing books for children and adults. With adults, you can leave gaps in the narrative, because adults will use their life experience to read between the lines and fill in the gaps, without actually being cognisant of it. With children, on the other hand, because they haven't garnered this life experience, you have to show everything. Because they can't fill in the gaps they tend to notice when something is missing. So avoiding topics simply attracts their attention to them. So the solution, when approaching a topic which, as an adult you might think you want to avoid in a children's book, is to simply treat it matter of factly and provide no special emphasis on it drawn from your own life experience.

The interesting thing, she noted, is when the two readerships (adult and child) collide, and the adult weights what they read in the children's book with their own life experience, rather than just relying on what is there.

When she started writing books purposefully for the adult market, her (adult) editor kept remarking that "you can't say that!"

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